WHEREAS there are approximately 32,000 kilometres of highway which the Government of Alberta’s Transportation Ministry is responsible for maintaining to ensure the safety of motorists;
WHEREAS contractors are hired to perform the function of snow removal and ice control on Alberta’s highways;
WHEREAS highway conditions directly affect the safety of the travelling public;
WHEREAS it is the Government of Alberta’s responsibility to inspect and ensure that highways are removed of snow and ice conditions are controlled in accordance with the levels of service specified in a third party maintenance contract;
WHEREAS municipalities throughout Alberta feel that the contractors hired by the Government of Alberta to perform highway maintenance in the province have inadequate resources to provide an acceptable service level for snow removal and ice control during periods of significant snowfall, as was experienced in January 2011;
WHEREAS municipalities throughout Alberta feel that it is unacceptable for a provincial highway to remain impassible for more than a few hours as a result of the accumulation of snow and ice;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urges the Government of Alberta to review and improve the requirements of contractors which perform the function of snow removal and ice control on highways, including secondary highways, throughout the province.
Due to a heavy snowfall through much of Alberta in January 2011, it was evident the contractors hired by the Government of Alberta to remove snow and control ice on provincial highways did not have adequate resources to handle the situation.
For example, Secondary Highway 658 through Woodlands County was not plowed for more than 27 hours during a period of heavy snowfall on January 7 and 8, 2011. As a result, the highway had in excess of 30 centimetres (one foot) of snow on the road surface, leaving it impassible to the general public, but more importantly to emergency vehicles.
Municipalities and motorists in Alberta need assurance that the province, and subsequently, the contractors hired to maintain highways, have adequate resources to handle large snowfalls in the winter.
While the AAMDC does not have any active resolutions related to this issue, a similar theme was included in a recently expired resolution.
Resolution 7-07S (expired): THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request that Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation review the minimum service guidelines and employ performance measures to ensure Alberta Highways are safe for the motoring public in winter conditions; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request that Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation establish and develop communication protocols to ensure all complaints and concerns are addressed in a timely manner.
Alberta Transportation’s current level of service standards were developed collaboratively with the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties in 2000, and require that provincial highways are returned to “good winter driving conditions” within a specified number of hours after the end of the winter storm. Department records show that we achieve this standard the majority of time each winter. Transportation does not, however, keep an excessive number of plow trucks, loaders, and graders “on standby” the whole winter for the few times when a severe winter storm overwhelms our existing resources. This level of service is similar to how the department operated prior to outsourcing highway maintenance, and was not affected by our contract requirements.
Alberta Transportation is involved in improving the efficiency of the resources we do have for winter highway maintenance, including our recently tendered increase to our Remote Weather Information System network.
The AAMDC was invited to attend a Maintenance Contract Improvement Session in August 2013. The purpose was to examine outstanding issues with maintenance service delivery, look at how other agencies around the world do highway maintenance under contract, and choose the innovations and contract changes to develop into trial projects. The AAMDC represented member concerns including this resolution at that session. Coincidentally, the AAMDC is conducting a survey to substantiate the issues with three-digit (secondary) highways and will share the results with members. Based on the findings and this resolution, the AAMDC will continue to advocate on the necessary improvements and monitor the results of the contract review.